A Day in the Life of a 1L

October 26, 2010 - 12 AM

R. B., 1L

We’ve all heard horror stories about the first year of law school, epitomized by the movie The Paper Chase and Scott Turow’s book “One L.” Leading up to the start of the school year, I prepared myself for eighteen-hour days spent poring through hundreds of Supreme Court cases. When I shipped out to New Haven at the end of August, I made sure to warn my folks that they probably wouldn’t hear from me again until late December.

But my experience here couldn’t be any more different from what I expected. On most days I find myself spending a few hours in the classroom, a few more hitting the books, and the rest doing whatever I please. I think the relaxed atmosphere has a lot to do with the pass/fail grading system here. That isn’t to say we don’t work hard – there have already been a few late nights in the library, and upperclass students have been known to devote hundreds of hours to writing papers – but in the absence of grades or class rank, there’s not a need to get that “extra edge” against your peers. Most of my classmates seem to be in the same boat, finding a healthy balance between classwork and personal interests.

Take a look at my schedule yesterday, for example. From 8:30 until noon I was in the classroom, which included a nice mix of lecture and class discussion. I stopped at home to grab a bite to eat and then it was off to the gym. In the afternoon I did the bulk of my homework and snuck in a quick nap.

When I awoke from my slumber, it was almost evening. I walked a few blocks to the law school to attend a (free!) dinner discussion on the current state of women’s reproductive rights in the U.S. One of the distinguished speakers had gone before the US Supreme Court a few years ago to argue Gonzales v. Carhart, a case we happen to be discussing in my Constitutional Law class this week. Listening to her talk and having the opportunity to ask her questions added an entirely new dimension to the case.

I had to duck out early to go to another talk in a classroom across the hall. Entitled “A Dinner Discussion on the Death Penalty” (it came with a free pizza dinner, but I was full from the last event), this talk featured a panel that included the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, a Connecticut state legislator, and a man who had spent more than seventeen years on death row before being exonerated of his wrongful conviction. They all delivered fascinating testimony which eventually opened up into a group discussion.

I headed home around 8:30 at night, leaving me enough time to finish up my work and catch some TV. It was off to bed a little after midnight, ready for another stimulating day of lectures and discussions. As far as first-year law school experiences go, I feel like I got a pretty sweet deal.